Title: Stars and Other Monsters
Publisher: Forest City Pulp
Release: (paperback and digital) Friday, 13 June, 2014
Available now at Amazon.
Let me say off the start that I despise vampire stories. I’ve enjoyed, perhaps, three of them over the years (Dracula, Salem’s Lot, Children of The Night), and been disappointed innumerable times. There is one thing worse than vampire stories, however, and that’s light-hearted and comical vampire stories. Stars and Other Monsters by Phronk is a light-hearted and comical vampire story. And, somehow, against all odds, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it.
The story involves a wicked and slimy creature that prowls the night, seeking out unwitting victims. Is it necessarily evil, though? After all, it is merely trying to survive. It must surreptitiously stalk its prey, track it down, and take its picture so it can sell the photos to magazines — and then he meets a vampire. The reader is left to ponder if one is worse than the other: if they’re both degenerate parasites, or simply misunderstood by humans. Maybe they have more in common than either would have imagined, and maybe they are both more human than we think.
The vampire solicits the aid of the photographer (and his little dog, too) in her quest to find a film star with whom she’s become rather smitten. The photog decides to assist her, as not doing so would result in his gruesome death, and together they embark upon a journey up through the Western U.S. and Canada in search of her hunky obsession. The trials they encounter along the way are one thing; what they find at the climax of their adventure is quite another.
"Stars" never lets up. It steams ahead like a locomotive hell-bent on arriving straight to its destination, then switches tracks when you least expect it, resulting in a wickedly entertaining and surprising trip.
I was pleasantly surprised with this novel from start to finish. The sweet charm and morbidity, the grotesquerie and the laugh-out-loud surprises, they all mesh expertly to provide a thoroughly satisfying read. At no point does it drag, and it refuses to conform to conventions even while maintaining a comfortable literary familiarity, mostly. That's no small feat for any author.
If you enjoy vampire stories, you’ll love Stars and Other Monsters. If you hate vampire stories, you’ll still love it. Highly recommended. Also, the book jacket has laurel leaves on it, so you know it must be good.